Casey Affleck received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.
Casey Affleck plays the titular coward. The placement of this performance is not not one I would have to say is completely wrong, becuase there is another identifiable lead with Brad Pitt as Jesse James, as well as the fact that Robert Ford does disappears from the time to time contributing to the idea that he is supporting, but he also becomes the sole focus of the film at the end suggesting as more of a lead performance. I'd say he is on the border, leaning toward lead, but still on the border.
Affleck from his opening scene creates a memorable character with Robert Ford. Affleck in his first scene with Frank James instantly establishes Ford as rather pathetic individual. It is almost rather hard to watch becuase how meek, and pathetic Ford is. Affleck does not overplay this quality or single it out as the only facet of Ford either. In his early moments there is also a sense of ambition that Affleck infuses, and want to belong, despite also having an alienating presence as well. Affleck combines all of these very different emotions with an absolute ease.
Casey Affleck though never simply stops revealing more about Robert Ford, and is never content with leaving Ford as simplistic in any aspect of his complex personality. Later after joining the James gang on a robbery one can see more of Robert's complete idolization of Jesse James. There is almost an innocent quality that Affleck creates to his idolization. Although certainly with an odd aspect to it, much of it comes from him viewing him as hero as a child would.
His early scenes with Jesse are pivotal, becuase Affleck shows a very boyish type of enthusiasm toward Jesse, wanting to know everything he can about his hero, as well as being simply enthusiastic to be in the same place as his hero. There is both an enthusiasm as well as a nervousness and awkwardness of his behavior as well. Affleck also keeps it appropriately ambiguous to how far he is to completely wanting to be Jesse, or simply viewing him as his hero.
After his initial meetings though there is a great deal of change in Affleck's characterization of Robert. Affleck shows a transition from an absolute idolization, to a slow realization of who Jesse really is. There is a disappointment that Affleck brings out in Robert, that also clearly brings an anger. There is not a compete loss of his idolization of Jesse every. Affleck never shows Robert completely forget his clearly long standing idolization completely go away, but most certainly becomes greatly reduced.
This realization of who Jesse really is the seems to at least in part fuel Robert's eventual plan to kill Jesse. I say in part, because Affleck never shows his plan to betray Jesse as any single reason. There is most certainly his anger over Jesse losing his luster, there is also his more personal reason to bargain for a murder he committed. Affleck never settles on a single reason, but rather a combination of problems that fuel his need to eventually kill Jesse.
The most prevailing perhaps are first his own fear of being killed by Jesse, as well as his own desire to be famous as Jesse. A certain reason perhaps prevails more at one time, than another reason. This inconsistency is actually perfectly played by Affleck, because Ford is never sure of himself to begin, or even sure of his exact motivations. It is quite a challenge to be inconsistent without seeming simply indistinct in terms of characterization, but Affleck never seems indistinct, instead he is always absolutely realistic in his portrayal of this inconsistency in terms of exact motivation.
Affleck is great throughout the film, but his best moment probably does indeed come in the actual assassination of Jesse James. The single scene of build leading to his eventual shooting of Jesse, is brilliantly portrayed by Affleck. Affleck manages to show us completely silently his internal struggle going on leading up to him eventually shooting Jesse, than afterward his immediate pain he feels for killing his idol. It is a stunning portrayal, and Affleck brings out every bit of power he can in the scene.
After the assassination, when Ford becomes the complete focus of the film, Affleck continues to excel. First showing a gloating man, happy for his fame and notoriety over his deed, but soon finding people are not as happy about what he has done as he has hoped. Afterward Affleck makes an amazing transition to a Robert Ford who finally understands himself. This understanding comes to him in a pathetic state and that is what is amazing about this transition. Ford is finally aware of who he is, and what he has done. His final scenes are incredible because he brings Ford to this conclusion perfectly.